Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Northern English Books, Owners, and Makers in the Late Middle Ages

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Northern English Books, Owners, and Makers in the Late Middle Ages

Article excerpt

A prodigious amount of research has gone into this study of a demonstrably neglected area - geographically and metaphorically. This is essentially a collection of essays rather than a synthesized work, though John B. Friedman makes suggestive attempts to link his material. The handlist of 236 manuscripts owned or made in the North that forms one of the three appendices well indicates the size and importance of the subject under consideration. The other aspects treated are, in order: owners of manuscripts; scribes and (possibly) scribal families; distinctive Northern choices of colour and design; aspects of popular piety in Northern books; and three particular Northern patrons.

The material is presented with exceptionally detailed illustration, occasionally stretched beyond its natural interpretative reach. Certain conclusions are unsurprising, but powerfully documented - the importance of York and Durham as centres of book production and consumption, for example. Others intersect well with ongoing research in other fields - such as the suggestion that female book owning and literacy in the North were considerably higher than is often assumed. The work on professional scribes includes striking profiles, as of the Breton William du Stiphel, active in the North in the 1380s. Less wholly convincing are the arguments for a Northern scribal family with the name Fulloflove, but Friedman himself willingly accepts the difficulties here. Some of the most intriguing argument lies in the analysis of the preference for green and purple and the use of what are defined as `interlace and mask medallion style' in decorative borders and initials. …

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